WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-pocketed and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Donald Trump’s fate in the November election.
In the battleground of Wisconsin, cash-strapped cities have received $6.3 million from an organization with ties to left-wing philanthropy to help expand vote by mail. Meanwhile, a well-funded conservative group best known for its focus on judicial appointments is spending heavily to fight cases related to mail-in balloting procedures in court.
And that’s just a small slice of the overall spending, which is likely to swell far higher as the election nears.
The massive effort by political parties, super PACs and other organizations to fight over whether Americans can vote by mail is remarkable considering the practice has long been noncontroversial. But the coronavirus is forcing changes to the way states conduct elections and prompting activists across the political spectrum to seek an advantage, recognizing the contest between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden could hinge on whether voters have an alternative to standing in lines at polling places during a public health crisis.
“The pandemic has created a state of emergency,” said Laleh Ispahani, the U.S. managing director for Open Society, a network of nonprofits founded by billionaire progressive donor George Soros. “Donors who haven’t typically taken on these issues now have an interest.”